The theory of aging advanced under Project Gilgamesh and shared by the SENS program is that aging is stochastic – characterized by the accumulation of small random errors in biological systems over time. The accumulation of errors is inexorable and a manifestation of a fundamental law of physics – the law of entropy. The law of entropy states that given sufficient time all closed systems attain equilibrium – an informational state characterized by maximum randomness. This law is often put forward as the basis of the infeasibility of aging elimination and the realization of life extension. However, the proclamation of the infeasibility of life extension on such a premise epitomizes the dangers of a little knowledge for evidently a biological system is not a closed system. As such, the law of entropy does not present an obstacle to life extension for it is also a fundamental principle of physics that the entropic decay of a system may be counteracted by the injection of energy into that system.
We have proclaimed that what is needed to counteract the entropic degradation of biological systems (the underlying cause of aging) is the injection of energy into that system. But energy is only a necessary requirement, not a sufficient one. Innumerable instances of energy injection not accompanied by a reversal of entropic degradation may be readily conceived, with the cremation of an individual representing an extreme case. Under crematory conditions, energy injection certainly occurs but only expedites the entropic decay – an effect contrary to the supposition that energy injection is a necessary and sufficient criterion for the counteraction of entropic deterioration in a biological system. If mere energy is deficient in the resolution of the aging problem, then to which concept must we turn?
In What is Life? (1944), Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Erwin Schrodinger tendered the concept of negative entropy as the physical quantity imported by a biological system to counteract the deteriorative effects of entropy. The term was later shortened to negentropy by Léon Brillouin. Negentropy is an insightful concept which transcends the energy concept and permits us to more appropriately formulate the procedure by which aging elimination may be attained. Contrary to the importation of energy which may or may not expedite entropic deterioration, the importation of negentropy is always accompanied by the attenuation of entropy.
This, however, implies that the unlimited importation of negentropy eventually results in a biological system characterized by zero entropy. At zero entropy, the use of the term “biological system” is really a misnomer for a “system” of such high order is necessarily devoid of functionality. This represents a fundamental limitation of the negentropy concept. A Further limitation is that a given entropy level may correlate with a variety of biological states which represent various degrees of health and even death. Knowledge of the entropy of a healthy biological state does not translate to knowledge of the pattern of atoms or atomic interaction which defines the healthy state (owing to the lack of a one-to-one mapping between the configuration of a biological state and its entropy). The negentropy measure, though more utile, must join the energy concept in the realm of defectiveness for neither concept adequately captures the idea of restoring the body to healthy biological states.
To summarize, the necessary and sufficient condition for the restoration of a healthy state is not energy which is generic in the sense that it permits activity but does not delimit on the type of activity permitted. It is not negentropy as it is intuitive that any system requires some minimal entropy to function and that the unbridled activity of negentropy will result in a body state that is too ordered to be alive.
If the concept of negentropy also fails, then what ensures the restoration of a healthy state? The thing which has to be restored is, somewhat anti-climactically, the precise information content of the healthy state i.e. the configuration of the healthy state. This certainly does not mean that such a state is singular but that it has a low degree of freedom in relation to the totality of unhealthy states. Any external intelligence which attempts to restore the configuration of the healthy state must necessarily possess access to the information content of that configuration (an information type which is highly compressible).
The restoration of the configuration of the healthy state transcends the energy and negentropy criteria. It requires not merely the expenditure of energy and the attenuation of entropy but the expenditure of energy in such a way that it is not only entropy-reducing but information-restoring.
The restoration of the healthy state is thus an exercise in intelligence by entities which may be generally termed information vectors (borrowing a term from João Pedro de Magalhães). This intelligence is only partially possessed by the body since if it was possessed in entirety, aging would have been nonexistent. Although the body does possess inherent intelligence as characterized by the definability and functionality of its innumerable physiological processes, it just does not possess the quality of intelligence which translates to a permanent healthy state. For this reason, the body requires a modification which must necessarily take the form of external intelligent agents or information vectors such as molecular repair nanotechnology.
It is conceivable that the status of information vectors as external agents may only be temporary and that they will eventually be seamlessly integrated into biological processes as inheritable phenotypes – a prospect which is not beyond the ambit of the emerging field of synthetic biology.